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Kayak Crabbing – What You Need To Know

Mark Armstrong
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Crabbing can be a fantastic way to spend some time on the water. Whether you’re fishing for other seafood or you simply want to enjoy the water, crabbing from your kayak can be fun and easy to do.

But how do you get started and what will you need? To help you out, we’ve put together some information that can point you in the right direction, as well as give you some useful advice about kayak crabbing.

Kayak Crabbing - What You Need To Know - Pinterest ImagePin

Where, Why And When To Find Crabs


There are many locations all along the North American coast where you can find various types of crabs. The type of crabs available will likely vary depending on the location. For example, on the coast of the Northwest Pacific, you can find Dungeness crab and in the southern states and along the east coast, you can find blue crab.

Remember that crabs tend to dwell on the ocean floor so when you’re trying to catch them you may want to make sure your bait and trap is on the seabed. Crabs can hide out just about anywhere, from piers and docks to both rocky and sandy seabeds.


Kayak crabbing can be a great activity for everyone in your family to enjoy, including the kids. It can also be relatively easy to do, even with minimal equipment, which can make it all the more appealing.

Video: Kayak Crabbing – The Light Way

Crabbing from a kayak can let you get access to more remote spots where other boats may not be able to get to, which could give you the upper hand. It can also let you move around to different spots quite easily, meaning you could potentially catch more crabs.

Many of the species of crabs that can be caught in the US can be eaten, which makes catching them all the more fun, especially for family trips as it can be a good way of getting kids involved.

However, you don’t have to keep what you catch. Simply catch them, find out what species you’ve caught and then release them back into the wild. This can be a great way of educating kids about nature and particularly marine life.


Crab fishingPin

While it will depend on where you are and the type of water you’re crabbing in, the best time to catch crabs can often be just before and just after high tide, while the water is moving.

Crabbing season will also depend on where you are located. For example, in Florida, crabbing for blue crab can be all year round, whereas stone crab season can be from mid October to mid May.

If you’re in California, catching Dungeness crab can be limited and may not start till November. Similarly, in Washington, there can be restrictions on where and when you can go crabbing.

What You Need To Get Going

Crab Traps

There are various styles of crab traps available, including cages, boxes, baskets and rings. For kayaking, you may find that traps that can fold down might be the easiest to store on your deck, as they should take up less room than traditional larger cages.

Crab Net

A crab net can be useful either in conjunction with your line or on its own if you’re in the shallows and are able to see the crabs under the water.

Lines Or Rope

Having sufficient lines or rope with you can be important when it comes to kayak crabbing, as the depths can change beneath you, leading you to require additional rope, so it’s always a good idea to have more rope than you think you might need.

You will need to have enough rope or line in order for your bait and trap to sit on the bottom of the ocean, as this is where the crabs should find it.


There are a few different baits you can choose to lure the crabs into your traps. Squid can be a good one, along with other types of seafood, such as rock fish or sardines – and you could even use frozen bait. Chicken can also be ideal for crab bait.

Buoys Or Floats

If you want to be able to locate your sunken traps or cages it can be a good idea to attach some kind of float or buoy to the rope so that you can see them from the surface.

These crab floats can also be effective if you’re dropping other traps, as it can let you mark out the distance from one trap to the next.

Fish Finder

Lots of fish in sea - fish finder GPSPin

fish finder can be useful when it comes to scoping out the potential spots where crabs might be hiding.

It can give you an idea of the underwater landscape and can let you see where the flat, sandy beds are for Dungeness crab, as well as the rocky areas where other crabs might be found.


Having a GPS with you when you’re kayaking can be useful in general, as it can let you mark your waypoints and find your way back to where you started. For crabbing, a GPS can be helpful as it can let you record where you sink your traps so that you’re able to recover them later.

Crab Gauge/Measurer

Because every state is different with regards to the size of crabs you can catch, which will often also vary with the different species you catch, it can be worth having a crab gauge with you.

This can allow you to measure the crabs you catch and make sure the ones you take are in line with your local and state regulations.

How To Catch Crabs From A Kayak

Before you head out crabbing in your kayak, you will need to make sure you have the required permits, such as a shellfish license, to allow you to catch crabs. These can be found from your state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

You can find out the depth of the seabed using a fish finder, which can help you determine the best place to drop your trap. It can also help you determine how much line or rope you’ll need.

Line Crabbing

This can be a simple way to catch crabs. All you need is a sufficient length of line, some bait and a net. This can work well from a kayak, as you don’t need a lot of equipment. However, you will need a bucket or something to put the crabs in if you want to keep them.

For this method to work, you can simply attach your bait to your line or rope, drop it into the water (making sure it hits the bottom – you may need to weigh it down) and when you feel a little movement, slowly pull up the line and as the crab comes to the surface, scoop it up in your net. 

Video: Kayak Crabbing Explained

Crab Traps

Whether you’re using a cage or basket, this method can result in multiple crabs being caught at once. To use them you would put your bait inside the cage and make sure you have enough rope attached to the cage before you drop it in the water.

When you drop it in the water, wait for the cage to hit the bottom so you can set your float and mark the location of the trap. It can be a good idea to let your traps sit for at least half an hour but possibly two hours if you want a better chance of more crabs.

When it’s time to paddle back to your traps, you can then pull up on the rope and bring the cage onto your kayak where you can then sort out the crabs you want to keep and put back the ones that are to be released.

Video: How To Crab From A Kayak

It might be best to hold the individual crabs from their very back legs, close to their bodies so that their claws don’t get you.

Finishing Off…

Going crabbing in your kayak can be a fun day out, whether you’re on your own or taking your kids along for the ride. As you’ll have seen, it can be pretty easy to do and you don’t really need a lot of equipment to get started.

Remember to make sure you follow your state’s rules on crabbing before you head out and don’t forget to leave us a comment to let us know how you get on. If you want to let your friends know how easy it can be to go kayak crabbing, just share this with them.

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